By Barbara Brody
The percentage of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD , formerly ADD) rose nearly 22% between 2003 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that's simply because we've gotten better at recognizing the symptoms, says Steven Kurtz, PhD, senior director of the ADHD and Disruptive Behaviors Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. What's more, he and other experts believe the condition is still underdiagnosed, because studies show that there are many kids who meet the ADHD criteria but aren't being treated. Girls in particular tend to fall through the cracks. "They're more apt to have problems focusing, but they're often not hyperactive, so they don't get red-flagged by teachers," says Tanya Froehlich, MD, assistant professor at the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
It's true that misdiagnoses do happen, but this probably isn't as rampant as parents fear, says Dr. Froehlich. Crucial to getting the right help is seeing a specialist for a full mental-health workup. "The doctor should ask many questions over several hours and be just as invested in determining that it's not ADHD as in concluding that it is," says Dr. Kurtz.
Do you have adult ADHD?
And keep in mind: Most experts say there's no good evidence that what kids eat affects ADHD, but a review of 35 years of studies published in Clinical Pediatrics revealed that some kids do get better when they stop eating certain foods. But it's unclear who might fall into that group, says Laura J. Stevens, an assistant professor at Purdue University who led the review.
Potentially problematic ingredients include artificial food dyes and preservatives; dairy; chocolate; wheat, rye and barley; eggs; processed meats; citrus; legumes; soy; corn and corn oil/syrup. If medication and therapy hasn't worked, cut out all of these for two weeks, then reintroduce each one by one to see if there's a noticeable change (often within hours), says Stevens. If so, that food should be eliminated; if not, your child can return to eating it.
If you opt to try this controversial approach, make sure that your child gets the nutrients he needs during those restrictive two weeks, which might involve taking vitamins. (Talk to your pediatrician.)
Something Dr. Froehlich suggests trying first: omega-3 fatty acids. Serve fatty fish, like salmon, three times a week or give your child a supplement.
Article originally appeared on WomansDay.com.
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